Converting Your Money to Korean Won

Converting Your Money to Korean Won

Want to go cashless as you hop from one attraction to another? You can buy this stored-value transport card to pay for your fares.

The Rundown

  • Get your Korean Won from any ATM or money changer in South Korea. You will almost always get a better exchange rate if you do.

  • Withdrawing from global ATMs is the most convenient way of getting your Korean Won (KRW or 원).

  • You can also go to a money changer in Korea, which are found inside the airport and in popular tourist spots like Myeongdong, Gangnam, Hongdae, or Itaewon.

  • Card acceptance is high! You may use your foreign-issued credit or debit cards in local establishments.

  • Bonus tip: If you want to go from Incheon to Seoul with utmost ease and comfort, you may opt to book this limo bus.

Also read: Take Your Pick: SIM Cards and Pocket Wifi in Korea

Get to Know South Korea’s Currency

Familiarize yourself with South Korea's bills or bank notes to speed up your cash transactions in the CVS (convenience store) or the train station. 

For accurate conversion of PHP to KRW (Korean Won or 원), you may use the calculator here.

Image credit: Korea Tourism Organization

Getting Cash from ATM’s in South Korea

Getting your Korean won (원) from ATMs in South Korea is your best bet for two reasons: convenience and competitive rates. 

You will easily spot an ATM when you walk towards the Customs gate in Incheon International Airport. The machine accepts foreign-issued cards and can operate in English.

If you run out of cash in the middle of your trip, you can easily find an ATM in a subway station or some convenience stores like 7-Eleven or CU. Just look for the 'Global ATM' sign and your card's logo before making the transaction.

NH Bank ATM inside a subway station in Seoul.

NH Bank ATM inside a subway station in Seoul.

You can also withdraw your Korean Won from cash machines operated by Korea Exchange Bank, Shinhan Bank, Citibank, and Woori Bank. Most are available to use 24/7, but do note that some ATMs in Korea stop servicing after midnight.

'Error Message' from Korean ATM

Some might get the Error Message while trying to withdraw money from a Global ATM in Korea. In this rare occasion, just try another machine. (This happened to me once, and I had to try three ATMs).

If you still get the same ATM error message, worry not and call your bank's 24/7 hotline. Fixes or authorizations should happen in less than an hour.

As a general rule, if you're unsure whether your card's activated for international use, call or visit your branch ahead of your Korea trip to have your card activated.

Money Changers in South Korea

Foreign currency exchange booth inside Incheon Airport Terminal 1

Foreign currency exchange booth inside Incheon Airport Terminal 1

The second best way to get Korean Won is by going to a money changer. You will find bank booths offering foreign currency exchange services in the airport and downtown Seoul.

If you'll be coming from Incheon International Airport, you will find the following money changers:

If you're entering via Gimpo International Airport, you will see a Shinhan Bank and a Woori Bank in the Domestic Terminal 1/F. 

Most money changers in Korea officially follow the standard 9am-4pm business hours, though you might find some of them open 24/7 to accommodate travelers arriving in the wee hours of the night, i.e. Woori Bank near the Arrivals area in Incheon International Airport.

You will not have a hard time converting your local money in the airport. Simply prepare your passport and cash, and you'll have your Korean Won in no time.

Alternatively, if you don't want to exchange all your money in Incheon International Airport, there are also several FOREX stations found in Myeongdong (near Chinese Embassy), Dongdaemun, and Itaewon (Some bank outlets can be found right outside the areas’ respective subway stations). These money changers can easily be spotted in these touristy places, so you need not worry about finding one online. (They usually bear the No Commission or Best Price sign.)

Money exchange booth near Myeongdong Station.

I found that transacting with standalone money changers in Korea is very convenient. Most of them are open from 8am through 8pm, though some operate 24/7 too to cater to late-night shoppers. Furthermore, some would not require you to present your passport, which makes transactions faster (and hassle-free if you actually forgot to bring yours while touring!).


GOT A TRANSPORT CARD YET?

If you’re looking to save some money for your Korea trip, we recommend purchasing a T-Money card. This product is used by locals and foreigners alike to get discounts on their transportation fares (subway, bus, or cabs) and easily pay for their purchases at retail stores.

Cost-efficient tourist card. Screengrab from  Klook

Cost-efficient tourist card. Screengrab from Klook

  • PRICE: ₱420 or $8, without the discount

  • Travel hassle-free with the exclusive Klook T-Money integrated transportation card.

  • Pick up your card at any of the four (4) locations in Korea. (You can also have it delivered!)

  • Make cashless payments in various public transports, convenience stores, and even vending machines.

  • Get the best souvenir to remember your trip with the special Klook design, which may feature famous South Korean icons.

  • For full details about T-Money, read our guide: T-Money Your Way in Korea


Bringing in Some Korean Won

If you feel the need to have some KRW in your pocket even before flying to Korea, that's understandable. Just make sure to reserve ahead from your bank, trusted money changers, or business service centers.

If you’ll go this route, I would suggest to get an amount somewhere around ₩40,000 (around ₱1,900 or $37). This should be enough to get you an all-stop train ticket and an unlimited data SIM card. Convert the rest of your pocket money in South Korea to get more value.

If you'll bring in bank notes and traveler's cheque worth at least $10,000 (around ₱500,000), you are required to make a customs declaration.

Credit & Debit Card Acceptance in Korea

Going cashless? Major establishments like hotels, supermarkets, retail outlets, malls, CVS, and restaurants accept credit and debit cards. Visa, Mastercard, and AMEX are widely accepted in Korea, as well as cards bearing the Plus and Cirrus Logos. 

When in doubt, always check with the cute clerk if you can pay by card.


TIPS!

  • Before you exit the Arrivals Gate of ICN Terminal 1, you will spot a Woori Bank foreign exchange booth. Skip that and find the other Woori booth at the actual arrivals area; they have slightly better rates.

  • Don't go from one money changer to another just to find the best rates. Maybe check out two or three, and that's it. More than this, you'll only be wasting time and energy. Unless, heaven forbid, it's part of your itinerary.

  • I usually visit money changers in Seoul Station, Myeongdong, and Hongik Univ. Area. They offer slightly better rates.

  • Philippine Peso is easily exchangeable in South Korea. To ensure convenience, bring in ₱1,000-bills since some may not accept bank notes with lower value.

  • Are you thinking of converting your PHP to USD before exchanging it to KRW? If you do the Math, you're most likely to get less Won. This should only make sense if you already have the USD in hand.

  • To see some estimate costs and budget tips for your Korea trip, read our guide here.


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